Fener chief set to continue his rigging defense

Fener chief set to continue his rigging defense

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Fener chief set to continue his rigging defense

A child stands next to banner of Yıldırım (L) and Fenerbahçe official Cemil Turan, who are both on trial as part of the match-fixing case, outside the Çağlayan Courthouse. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

Aziz Yıldırım will again be at center stage as the Fenerbahçe chairman will continue his defense at the landmark match-fixing trial today.

Yıldırım, who is the highest-profile name in the gripping match-fixing case and arguably the most powerful man in Turkish football, started his defense at the Çağlayan Courthouse on Feb. 21. The Fenerbahçe chairman made a defense longer than eight hours and the judge, Mehmet Ekinci, said he would continue his defense today, after a day’s break to the trial.

A total of 93 football club officials, players and coaches, including those from Beşiktaş, Trabzonspor, Istanbul BB, Eskişehirspor and Sivasspor as well as Fenerbahçe, were listed as suspects in the landmark match-fixing case, which started after the Istanbul police found that several games from the top two football leagues in the country were allegedly manipulated last season. Prosecutor Mehmet Berk’s indictment also alleged there were deep-rooted mafia links with the football world.
Olgun Peker, former Giresunspor chairman and alleged mobster, was listed as the alleged leader of an illegal organization, which had illegal financial income through sport.

Although Peker was listed as the number one suspect as part of the case, it was Yıldırım, the number two suspect, whose defense was highly awaited. Yıldırım made a statement focusing on the team’s history during his defense, where he dismissed claims and alleged the case was politically motivated.
“If this case was about purification in sport, all teams would be wiretapped,” said Yıldırım, claiming Prosecutor Berk told him the case would not have been opened if Fenerbahçe had not won last year’s Spor Toto Super League title.

He added that this history was the reason the match-fixing case was opened in the first place.
“The Republic of Fenerbahçe has developed side by side with the Turkish Republic. It has been representing Turkish youth following [founder of the Turkish Republic Mustafa Kemal] Atatürk for decades,” Yıldırım said. “That is the reason why there are efforts to damage it.”

Apart from Yıldırım, four other Fenerbahçe officials members are listed as suspects as well.

According to the indictment, Yıldırım is not only charged with manipulating games but also with “forming an unarmed criminal organization” which intended to obtain financial income through sport.